(Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

Opinion

Opinion: Why SeaWorld is the worst place for a family vacation

After nine years of confrontation catalyzed by boycott propaganda such as “Blackfish,” practically nothing has changed at SeaWorld.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/sanyatinaikar/" target="_self">Sanya Tinaikar</a>

Sanya Tinaikar

February 6, 2022
There is nothing quite like the feeling of going to Orlando, Fla. as a child: the magical land where princesses hub, eating freshly baked churros out of the timely food carts — the place where dreams come true. However, SeaWorld, one of the biggest proprietors of marine life parks, belies this perception.

With its marine acrobatic shows, thrill rides and looped roller coasters, you would think that this park is filled with nothing but chaotic excitement and spectacular marine mammals. But in fact, SeaWorld might be the most dangerous and inhumane place in the vast city of Orlando for family vacations. 

SeaWorld has a dark past of abusing its captive mammals both physically and emotionally. The stars of the amusement park, the orcas, don’t live the life of glamour when the park closes. As shown in the 2013 documentary “BlackFish,” the largest captive orca Tilikum was the cause of many unfortunate trainer deaths at SeaWorld.

But was it really his fault? 

The simple answer: No. Masked by the spectacular essence of the park and the enthralling acrobatics in each marine show, SeaWorld imprisons each of their orcas in a compact, concrete tank with just about enough square footage to fully encompass their massive bodies.

Young orcas have so much energy and curiosity — I could sense the desperation sink in when they finally realize their fate is to be one of repetitive performance and routine,” John Hargrove, a former killer whale trainer at SeaWorld, wrote in his book “Beneath the Surface.”

Ripped away from their families from a young age, they are forced into the brooding sea-park industry where their mistreatment accumulates revenue. Nearly all SeaWorld orcas have a collapsed dorsal fin — an evident sign of an injured orca. While SeaWorld claims this condition commonly occurs in orcas, in the wild, this collapse rarely happens. These social animals suffer from isolation and loneliness in captivity as well, issues that lead to other mental health concerns. 

In 2016, SeaWorld said they were going to stop all theatrical orca shows and in-captive breeding. However. SeaWorld is continuing to use its currently captive orcas for amusement in its brand new show “Orca Encounter.” 

In released footage of the complete show, the orcas log the tank in front of a projector screen, emulating their life in the wild. SeaWorld still hasn’t addressed their stance on how the orcas are being treated at this time — but they don’t need to.

Throughout the show, SeaWorld’s utter indifference to the species is abundantly clear. The orcas still have collapsed dorsal fins and are held captive in a concrete tank devoid of any social interaction.

The PR spin, repeated ad nauseam, ‘world-class veterinary care’ and ‘our animals are healthy and thriving,’ is demonstrably false,” Hargrove wrote in an Op-Ed for the Orlando Sentinel in 2020. 

Even after nine years of confrontation catalyzed by boycott propaganda such as “Blackfish,” practically nothing has changed at SeaWorld. And what’s most shocking is that despite the cruelty that orcas face in captivity, the gates to SeaWorld are still open.

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